MAT MARTIN | WordPress Account Management: Basic Navigation

21 October, 2016, 10:00

Blog · Resources · Site Maintenance

WordPress Account Management: Basic Settings
WordPress Account Management: Basic Settings

Are you learning your way around your WordPress account? Not sure if your install is a .org or .com site? This post will take you through a few basic things which should make this clearer. We’ll be concentrating mainly on the user account aspect of working in WordPress.

For anyone looking to set up a new site from scratch, these details won’t cover all you need to know. Depending on what you want to achieve it may be necessary to talk to a developer, but it’s also possible to do a certain amount yourself. There are many guides to doing this online, including, who have also put together this video about setting up a new WordPress project.

However, if you already have a WordPress account and would like to know your way around it a little better, read on.

Managing a WordPress Account

WordPress account management is quite a simple process provided you know where to find the various settings and variables within the dashboard. In order to give you access to your WordPress site, the system automatically creates an identity (ID) for you as a user. For sites with more than one contributor this is used to identify the author of a page or post, and to offer differing levels of access to the site’s content and settings to different people. For sites with a single user the ID simply manages your security and settings.

Here are a few things about running a WordPress account which it may be useful to refer to.

.org & .com:

It is easy to get confused between WordPress’ .com and .org offerings. The accounts are not identical, and the basic differences are as follows:

  1. is a free service hosted by WordPress themselves – you sign up and create your site on their servers, using an off-the-peg theme to adjust the look of the site. Content is managed entirely via their online CMS (content management system).
  2. is more complex, but still free at the WP end – you host this system yourself via a third party hosting service (Not free, but can be cheap. I use HostPresto [disclaimer: that’s an affiliate link] for this and offer hosting myself too), and manage the content via a combination of their CMS and by managing the files on your server.
  3. offers limited options and functionality compared to If you are having a bespoke site built you will almost certainly be using the .org platform, although a good developer will take care of everything apart from the in-site content management, so your user experience should be similar to that of a .com site.
  4. allows the use of plugins, which we’ll go into in another post, but which allow for a great deal of extended functionality, from virus protection to multilingual site management. Again, these will most likely be researched, installed and set up by your developer.
  5. The visual/design aspect of installation is much more controllable. With a .org site you can choose from a much wider variety of existing themes, both free and premium, or even develop your own bespoke theme (or have one developed). The level of control possible on a .org install far exceeds that of the basic .com version of WordPress.

These differences in WordPress account management are all set out pretty neatly by WP themselves right here.

In some cases it will be necessary to have a .com account even if your site is built in a .org install. Examples include setting up a Gravatar image for use across the platform, or for certain plugins/functionality. These instances will be covered in these articles as and when they come up.

Login & Access:

On handover of your new site, you will have been provided with a login URL, username and password. It is important to keep these safe and accessible. The login URL for your site is usually [your domain]/wp-login.php, where you will be prompted to give your credentials in a screen which looks like the one above.

You’ll see that there’s a lost password link beneath the sign-in box. You can use this to generate a new password if you lose the current one, provided your email settings are correct (this is worth being sure of). If you need to choose a new password be sure to select something secure – WordPress is one of the most popular CMS platforms in the world and thus is subject to attacks from hackers who will trawl and crack simple passwords much more easily than ones which include symbols, numbers and a combination of upper and lower case letters. This article on the construction of safe, memorable passwords is worth a read.

Alternatively, you can use a password generator (a search will offer you a selection) to create something random, which you’ll need to write down or record in a safe place. Don’t be tempted to use that password you already use for everything else – have a read of Bill Hess’ article on the subject at Pixel Privacy if you still think that’s a good idea.

Your account settings:

Your account settings are accessed, once you have logged into your website, in the top right hand corner of the page. When logged in to a WordPress site you’ll see a black admin or tool bar along the top of the page (by default you’ll see this whether you’re looking at the front end (pages) or the back end (admin area) of the site, although there’s a setting to turn this off on the front end of the site – see below). This admin bar is key to handling yourWordPress account management. In the top right hand corner of that bar you’ll see a greeting. Hovering over this offers you the option to edit your profile or to log out. Clicking on it takes you straight to the profile edit screen, where you can adjust the settings.

The Profile Edit Screen:

  1. Visual Editor: Disabling the visual editor will remove the option to select “visual” or “text” tabs above the content areas in your page/post edit screens. This is only useful if you’re comfortable enough with basic HTML code to add your own hyperlinks, paragraph/header tags and the like in-line, and even then it can somewhat interrupt the flow of typing. However, leaving it enabled won’t restrict your access to the “text” tabs if you do need to get technical.
  2. Admin Color Scheme: This makes no difference to the running of the WordPress system, but is good if there isn’t enough purple in your life.
  3. Keyboard Shortcuts: By default, this is left unchecked, but you can use it to allow use of the keyboard shortcuts as defined here by WordPress within the admin area of your site.
  4. Toolbar: As mentioned above, you can choose here whether or not you want to see the black admin bar on the front end of the site when logged in. I recommend leaving it checked, as the bar provides an excellent navigational route between front and back ends.
  5. Username: This cannot be changed within the WP system, so is greyed out here.
  6. First/Last Name: Not required but can be useful in some contexts, especially if you begin commenting on your own or others’ blogs.
  7. Nickname: This is a required field, as it is used by the WordPress system. Usually if this is left blank the username will be used.
  8. Display name publicly as: This dropdown will give you a choice between the last three options, for display on the front of the site should you be named as the author of a post or comment. This can be carried over onto other WordPress sites if you engage in discussion there.
  9. Email: The main admin email for your site. This will be used for warnings, admin updates and password resets. It is very important that this is up to date. It shouldn’t be displayed publicly at any point, although it is possible for some themes to call it (I never do this on client sites, but if your theme wasn’t built by me you can check with your developer or theme author).
  10. Website: This can be left blank, you can input the URL of the site you are in, or indeed the URL of another if you have more than one. The link will be displayed if and when your nickname is used on sites.
  11. Biographical Info: An optional field which allows you to add a little detail about yourself or your business for display if anyone views your profile directly. It isn’t bad practice to simply duplicate your Twitter bio or similar here, in case it might help with your SEO.
  12. Profile Picture: This is set via WordPress’ .com service, using a system called Gravatar (see below).
  13. New Password: Here is where you reset your password for your account, and your access to your site. A password generator is offered, which should keep your account secure.
  14. Sessions: This allows you to make sure you are logged out everywhere. Useful if you’ve been using a public or borrowed computer to work on your site, and worth remembering.


Your WP avatar image is not as straightforward a proposition as you might think. This is because WP uses Gravatar to make sure that your visual ID on their platform is scaleable and helps your online presence to be coherent. Here’s how they put it:

Your Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site?

Signing up for a Gravatar is entirely optional, and not doing so won’t stop you doing anything with your site. If you do want one though, this is one of the situations in which a account is needed even if you don’t run a site there. The signup is here – it costs nothing and could be useful later, too – for example if you want to incorporate the JetPack plugin into your site (more on that in another post), or if you use other Gravatar-compliant services like HootSuite.

Multiple users in one site:

A note should be made here to acknowledge the possibility of adding several users to a single WordPress site. In many cases this simply won’t be necessary, because separate authorial voices or levels of access are not relevant to the content of a site which either represents a single individual or an organisation with a master admin account. However, on blogs where conversation is encouraged or contributors’ identities are to be made distinct this is an important aspect of the WP functionality.

Users can be granted one of a few levels of access. The following is reproduced from WordPress’ own article on the subject (there’s little point in rephrasing what the horse says).

Types of user account:

  • Administrator: An administrator has full and complete ownership of a website, and can do absolutely everything. This person has complete power over posts/pages, comments, settings, themes, plugins, import, users – everything. Nothing is off-limits, including deleting everything.
  • Editor: An editor can view, edit, publish, and delete any posts/pages, moderate comments, manage categories, manage tags, manage links and upload files/images.
  • Author: An author can edit, publish and delete their posts, as well as upload files/images.
  • Contributor: A contributor can edit their posts but cannot publish them. When a contributor creates a post, it will need to be submitted to an administrator for review. Once a contributor’s post is approved by an administrator and published, however, it may no longer be edited by the contributor. A contributor does not have the ability to upload files/images.

There is one more level of access that can be granted in some cases:

  • Subscriber: In your comment settings, if you’ve selected “Users must be registered and logged in to comment”, once they have created an account, they will be given subscriber role. Subscribers only have the ability to leave comments.

To create a new user within your site:

This can only be done by Administrators, who select the level of access the new user receives.

  1. Go to Dashboard > Users > Add New.
  2. Fill in the new user’s name, email and other info, as above (if this user already has a WordPress account or Gravatar they will be recognised by the system when you complete this process).
  3. Generate or set their password. Check the box to “Send this password to the new user by email” and they’ll receive a confirmation of their new account and the means to log into it.
  4. Select the role you wish to assign to the new user and click on “Add New User”. This will take you back to the main user screen.

If you find that the types of user, the privileges attached to them or the level of control you have over managing users aren’t quite what you need them to be, Justin Tadlock’s Members plugin may be useful to you. I have been using it in several installs myself recently.